What would I do differently?

Mike McCarter, TMMBA Class of 2014
Mike McCarter, TMMBA Class of 2014

I always knew someone would ask me this question.   I’d supposed it would happen sometime after I graduated.   Or maybe the question would come from my children someday when I was old and gray– I certainly didn’t expect it in the last quarter of the program, but there it was.   The TMMBA Program Director, Tracy, asked the question;  “If you could do this whole MBA thing over again, what would you do differently?”

OK, so maybe she didn’t ask the question exactly like that.  She may have actually said something closer to “How’s it going?” or maybe just “Hi”.   Regardless of what had prompted Tracy’s inquiry that day in the hall, she deserved to know the answer that had plagued me for a solid month.

Here’s the background.  About a month earlier my team and I had set up a meeting with the executive director of a local non-profit to talk about a social media project.  We booked the meeting to occur a couple of hours ahead our Wednesday class session– and miraculously it finished up a bit early!   After treating myself to a second helping of taco buffet, I had found myself in the rare-yet-luxurious state of not having any plans.   I recall mingling in the buffet area for a while and then ambling into the Tech @ the Top room after hearing some mention of cheeseburgers in there.

Shortly after I found a seat, Tracy shut the door and introduced Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger Network.   Then it all clicked for me.   Five minutes earlier I had been joking with this guy at the taco buffet, wondering if he was going to take the last chalupa, and now I find out he is a legendary entrepreneur?!  The next hour flew by like it was fifteen minutes.   I learned about how Ben had quit a perfectly good job to see if he could parlay a funny cat picture into an multimillion dollar internet humor juggernaut (spoiler alert:  he did it).   Ben gave a fast-paced presentation followed by a wide-open Q&A session.  I got an incredible view into the mind of a truly creative entrepreneur with a street MBA and a truckload of wisdom.  More importantly, I got to ask Ben as many questions as I wanted about being an entrepreneur and scaling a company, which is a topic that interests me greatly.

from icanhascheezburger.com

A few weeks went by and I still found myself reflecting on Ben’s presentation and several impactful things he had shared.  I figured this must have been an anomaly– of course they couldn’t all be that good, right?  I secretly hoped so, because I’d been ignoring Tech @ the Top emails for over a year.  With small kids at home, a demanding job, a couple side ventures and an MBA-in-progress, I felt like I couldn’t afford to take on anything else.   Nonetheless, when the next Tech @ the Top Speaker Series event came along there I was, privately hoping that Jens Molbak, founder of Coinstar, would flop and confirm my anomaly theory.

Of course Jens didn’t flop, he was brilliant.  I still don’t know how he crammed it all into one hour, but we learned how he started Coinstar as a secret project during his MBA.  Jens told us about how he had interviewed 1500 people in front of grocery stores to refine his idea.  We sensed Jen’s pain from the continuous rejection by VCs.   Then we learned about the eventual revelation that enabled him to not only get seed funding, but ultimately raise $200m in VC investment (hint: it wasn’t about selling his idea better).   In less than 10 years, Jens succeeded in taking Coinstar public, caused the Mint to stop making coins, and enabled the donation of millions of dollars to a litany of charitable organizations.    As with my prior Tech @ the Top experience, I was blown away by the openness and accessibility of this inspiring entrepreneur.

Tech @ the Top Speaker Series - Jens Molbak

So there it is.  Not the answer I’d expected it would be, but true nonetheless.  If I could do it over again, I would go to every single Tech @ the Top speaker.  The absurdity is that I was already there on Wednesdays anyway– how hard would it have been to forgo that extra trip to the buffet and open my mind to meeting a new entrepreneur or business leader?  I’ll never know, but what I do know is that I missed the opportunity to get direct learnings and close interaction with senior executives from Costco, Docusign, Concur, Outerwall, PCC, and many others.    Here’s my advice to future Foster MBA students:  skip that extra chalupa and go to Tech @ the Top!

Not to Miss Tips on the TMMBA Application

The September 1 Technology Management MBA application deadline is fast approaching! With that in mind, I want to share some really good tips on the application process that you might have missed in the TMMBA blog archives.

1. Preparing for the GMAT

Last year a TMMBA staff member took the GMAT so she could share her experience first-hand with applicants. To simulate the experiences that many applicants go through, she studied during non-work hours for less than two months and used many of the study techniques that we recommend at TMMBA.   Here’s a post from each week of preparation:

2. Tackle the Essays

As part of the TMMBA application, you are required to submit three essays, each 500 words or less.

  • Why have you decided to apply to the TMMBA Program? What are your career goals in the next 5 to 10 years and how will an MBA help you reach these goals?
  • In essay format, evaluate and describe your career using the four factors of the SWOT analysis framework.
  • Where in your background would we find evidence of your leadership capacity or potential? Describe the situation and the impact you had on a person, group or organization.

If you’re having a hard time getting started and are suffering from writer’s block, read our 5 Tips For Your TMMBA Essays.

If you’re not sure what a SWOT analysis is or how write one for your career, don’t miss this post: The SWOT Analysis Essay and the Four Questions We Are (Really) Asking.

3. Acing the Admissions Interview

The admissions interview is the final step in the process of applying to the TMMBA Program.  Our Program Director, Tracy Gojdics, has done a lot of these over the years (461 and counting!) and has learned a lot about interviewing and engaging with applicants. She wrote this post to shed light on the TMMBA interview approach and what you can expect.

Do you still have questions about putting together your best possible application? Check out these additional video tips and sign up for a TMMBA Application Workshop.   

Debunking the Myth: Marketing Redefined

How would you define marketing? For many people, they’d simply describe it as “it’s about cost, cost and (you guessed it …) more cost”. While TMMBA Professor, Natalie Mizik, acknowledges that spending is a factor that must be considered in marketing, the focus of her teaching and research challenges students to approach marketing in a much more integrated way.

TMMBA students embark on Mizik’s Strategic Marketing Management course in their 3rd quarter of the Program. She teaches marketing as a practical science that combines elements of other fundamental business courses – finance, statistics and economics to name a few. Students quickly learn that developing quantifiable and strategic marketing decisions is imperative for the success of a business. Watch this video to learn more about how Mizik strives to redefine how people look at marketing:

 

About Natalie Mizik: Natalie Mizik, Associate Professor of Marketing, has been with the Foster School of Business for two years. Prior to Foster, Mizik taught at Columbia Graduate School of Business, MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC. Her current research focuses on branding, marketing strategy, myopic management, and pharmaceutical marketing. Read more about Mizik and her road to academia here.

Mizik will kick-off her third year teaching in the TMMBA Program this Summer Quarter. In her short time with the TMMBA Program, Mizik has already received numerous teaching awards – TMMBA Faculty of the Quarter (Class 12 & 13) and TMMBA Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award (Class 12 & 13). A student favorite to say the least!

Success @ the Buerk Center Biz Plan Competition

Mikaela Houck, Assistant Director

Congrats to TMMBA students who showed off their entrepreneurial skills at yesterday’s  Buerk Center Business Plan Competition (BPC) “Sweet 16” Round – TMMBA had representation on two of the 16 teams:

IonoMetal Technologies (TMMBA Student: Pritam Das)
With its revolutionary patented technology and demonstrated tool, Ionometals will not only make the earth a better place to live by reducing landfill of semiconductor waste, but also help save approximately $0.5MM for every semiconductor testing company.

Spectral DNA (TMMBA Students: Michael Franklin, Bryan Kessler, MJ Pattanshetti and Tyler Sims)
Spectral DNA’s goal is to deliver a conformable solar fabric that can be fully integrated into a multi-use model for ubiquitous power generation. We aim to micro-design these 3D conformable fabrics into clothing, and other needed uses and applications for ubiquitous power. This can be used as a mobile power generation house without connecting to wires.

Both teams represented TMMBA well with their polished presentations and innovative business ideas. Furthermore, the IonoMetal Technologies team took home the “Best Clean Tech Idea” and $2500 prize.

Yesterday’s round  was the culmination of months of hard work and dedication for the teams. The competition formally began in early April with over 92 submissions and over time whittled down to the best of the best at yesterday’s Sweet 16 – all vying for the ultimate grand prize of $25,000.

Year after year, the Buerk Center BPC is a focal event for many of our TMMBA students. The competition allows them the great opportunity to put the skills they’ve gained in the classroom to the test – from developing business plans to honing their pitching and presentation skills. The competition also grants teams unique access to the thriving Seattle start-up community (VCs, angel investors, and more!).

Way to go teams IonoMetal Technologies and Spectral DNA! Also, a special call-out to team Zetection (with TMMBA student Anna Gall) who advanced to the earlier Investment Round of the competition.

Check out a few photos from the competition (Investment Round on April 29):

 ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????     Spectral DNA @ the Investment Round

Interested in learning more?
Read about past TMMBA successes at the BPC
Click here for full results of the 2014 BPC

 

Xin Chào from Vietnam!

Mikaela Houck, Assistant Director

I’m currently writing this post from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where 22 Class 13 students have just kicked off their 10-day International Study Tour experience. Jet lag didn’t hold anyone back as we hit the ground running and began to explore this great city and all it has to offer.

Our first day of the tour acted as a great way for everyone to get our bearings – we started the day with a city tour of Ho Chi Minh City and explored the Presidential Palace and some beautiful French colonial buildings including the Notre Dame cathedral and city post office.

For the afternoon, we ventured out to the Mekong Delta and meandered through a maze of waterways. We had a couple stops along the way where we enjoyed local fruits and tea, music, and encountered a python (yes – I said a python). And a few folks were even brave enough to snap a few pictures with it. I was not one of them!

We capped the day with a celebratory welcome dinner to mark the beginning of an exciting tour to come. From a dynamic group of company visits that includes industries as such banking, technology, automotive, logistics, tax and inward investment, and market research and media (Ford, Cisco and Citi Bank to name a few companies) to unforgettable cultural experiences and phenomenal Vietnamese cuisine – the next 10-day will surely be a whirlwind that will not disappoint.

IST medium

 

About the TMMBA International Study Tour:
The International Study Tour experience is an optional tour for TMMBA students that occurs in the second year of study and gives students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a different cultural and business context than the one in which we all typically operate day-to-day.  Students who partake in the tour have the opportunity to visit companies, tour manufacturing facilities, and meet business leaders and government officials. Click here to view blog posts from past Study Tour experiences.

TMMBA Week in the Life: Radu Mocanita, Day 7

Radu Mocanita, TMMBA Student, Class of 2015

Hello and welcome back for the last episode of a week in my life as a TMMBA student. I hope you were able to get a feeling of what’s it like to be a part time student here at UW. The courses are great, with really good study cases and great faculty. The program is well thought to help you optimize your time as much as possible so you can still have some free time to enjoy life, after working and studying. As I was saying in Day 1, I just started but I already feel like I’ve learned a whole lot and I had great experiences here, so far.

But let’s get back to our topic, which is how a usual Sunday looks like in my schedule these days. Sunday is your free day. Sure, you still take a few hours to study like most of the days, but in my (new) understanding free means that you have the chance to make your own schedule. No obligations, no places to be at, no fixed schedule for the entire day.

Today I woke up at 10 am – finally, a day to sleep in late! At least Sundays did not betray me like Saturdays did. Sundays are still mine. Got a coffee, studied for a few hours in the morning. Then a miracle happened – sun came out – so in the afternoon I went out to get some air. Spent again most of my day in the yard, doing stuff around the house. In the evening I got some friends over and now – after 10 – I plan to watch a movie.

On a usual Sunday, I’d probably spend a few extra hours to study more in the evening, from 7 to 10 or so. But this time is better, as we’re already done with most classes for the quarter and all we have left is the final exams – which reminds me, the Micro exam was published yesterday and is due on Thursday. I’ll probably have to sacrifice my evenings during next week since I didn’t spend any time on it today. But it was worth it – you don’t see the sun that often these days here in Seattle :)

Anyway, the weekend is almost over. In a few hours, I’ll start the week all over again with Day 1, getting closer and closer to my goal: to finish the MBA. One quarter down, 5 left to come.

Thank you for taking the time to read my stories, I hope they inspired you. Maybe we’ll get the chance to meet in person in a few years, at alumni gatherings. That will be cool.

Cheers and good luck!
Radu

TMMBA Week in the Life: Radu Mocanita, Day 6

Radu Mocanita, TMMBA Student, Class of 2015

Wait, what?! Wake up on a Saturday morning at 7 am when it’s 25F outside and go to school? Really? That’s something I asked myself 6 times in the past 3 months. But not this weekend, this weekend I am off duty. Well, kind off, because I just spent 6 hours on the Stats exam. It wasn’t that bad after all, I think you can do it in far less than that if you’re better prepared.

The good part is that it was the crappy Seattle weather in full effect today, so at least I am not sorry about spending all day indoor. If it continues tomorrow – which I think it will – I’ll take time to do the Micro exam as well and then be free for the rest of next week.

But let me tell you how a school Saturday looks like. As I was saying, wake up at 7:30-ish and jump in the car with no breakfast. They provide breakfast there so you’ll eat with the classmates. We don’t socialize that much because we are all still sleeping at that time so luckily they also provide coffee. Lots of it! I definitely need it for 8 straight hours of school as I haven’t done that since my undergrad, a couple of years ago. After a few breaks and lunch, finally 4 30 comes and we’re out the door. Usually I keep the rest of the Saturday for fun, going out, watching a movie. If it’s sunny outside, go outdoor, have some fun, live a little.

Sometimes it’s challenging, I tell to myself when I think about the commitment I made. However, looking back at the quarter now, I realize that this program is really well thought: it is much easier to get into the right mind set now, in the winter, when you don’t have much to do, compared to all the temptations in the summer. It can be difficult at times, but you know you do this so you can live a little better in 18 months. It’ll happen, you’ll see.

Radu

TMMBA Week in the Life: Radu Mocanita, Day 5

Radu Mocanita, TMMBA Student, Class of 2015

Thank god is Friday! And thank god tomorrow is a no-school Saturday. However that doesn’t mean complete chill-out as I still have stuff to do. The Stats exam is already published, but I haven’t download it yet as we have a time limit of 7 hours until we’ll have to upload our answers. Hence I am saving a full 7 hours window starting tomorrow morning, bright and early.

Meanwhile, I am frying my brains trying to solve a sample exam we got. Trust me, it ain’t pretty, but somehow I’ll make it through. Practice makes perfect, I know, but I ‘m not even close. :)

Today was really sunny – something that we haven’t seen in the past couple of weeks here in Seattle. So I rushed home after work to get a few hours out in the yard. We recently bought a house – first time buyers, hence we’re really excited about the new outdoor opportunities. I spent an hour or so doing yard work and planting a fruit tree and now I am back indoor spending some time on stats. Later tonight, I planned an evening out with my wife as tomorrow is woman’s day (March 8th). Shh, don’t tell her, it needs to be a surprise. She still thinks I need the entire evening to study.

Regarding the rest of the exams, I am pretty confident with Micro but I am still catching up on Accounting. It’s going to be a long weekend, but at least it’s the last “hop” for this quarter. Okay, I am going back to study now, as the clock is ticking and time is flying. See you tomorrow.

Radu

TMMBA Week in the Life: Radu Mocanita, Day 4

Radu Mocanita, TMMBA Student, Class of 2015

Hi and welcome to the 4th day of the week. Hang on in there, we’re making progress. If you reached so far and you’re still reading, it means you’re really interested in this program! :) So stay tuned, you’ll learn a lot from this blog. I’ve read it myself before finally deciding to make the step.

Thursday is the review session day. Every week, from 6 to 8, two teacher assistants will have a one hour session each to go through the last class’ topics. I can’t tell you how useful these are when you’re struggling with the concepts and need some help. You can either join in person, at East Side Executive Center or online. I usually prefer the online session as I have enough of EEC 2.5 times a week. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice facility but home is nicer :). The downside of participating online is that you can’t ask questions. But we’re smart, creative people and we find workarounds, like texting or emailing your question to somebody who is there in person.

I need to tell you how amazing some of these classes are and how they make you change you perspective on the things around you. You might think that you’re old or that you graduated in a different era. Well, while that might be true, don’t think that you can’t do it and can’t absorb any more knowledge. This quarter Microeconomics was my favorite class. Even though I already had a micro course in my undergrad, it was no match to this one. The cases and the real-world applications of the concepts were eye-opening for me, I had a great time studying.

In the last two chapters, for example, we did Game Theory and Price Discrimination techniques. Now I understand what’s the deal with price matching or sale price guarantees. I always wondered what’s the incentive for big stores to do it as it seemed to be too nice of them to do that only for the sake of making a customer happy. While that is also a reason, these are actually tricks which facilitate price cooperation between competitors in oligopoly markets.

Ok, enough microeconomics for tonight. One more day and the weekend comes. Should I be happy? Well, it depends whether I have a class on Saturday or not :). Thank you for your attention and have a good night.

Radu

TMMBA Week in the Life: Radu Mocanita, Day 3

Radu Mocanita, TMMBA Student, Class of 2015

Wednesday is usually the team meeting day for our study group. Not today though, as we skipped it due to tomorrow’s deadline for Micro homework. There’s a strategy in choosing this day of the week - we meet at the East Side Executive Center and we can take advantage of the leftovers from Wednesday’s session :D No, I’m kidding, that was not the main reason. The main reason is that Wednesday is conveniently placed after self-study day on Tuesdays and so we can all bring knowledge to the table. Moreover, we can also socialize a bit more with the Wednesday section folks, as we only see them every other Saturday.

The study group is a really cool experience and the TMMBA staff is very careful when assigning the teams. They want to make sure each group is diverse and brings a unique set of skills to the table and the program is centered around building strong relationships between individuals. During the Immersion week, back in December, we had the Building Effective Work Teams class in which we learned a whole lot about forming a successful team and being part of one. It’s amazing how much more effective people can be when solving a problem as part of a team, as opposed to doing it on their own. We actually had a test that we took individually and then as a team. It was quite impressive to see that with brainstorming within a team we scored more than the sum of individual scores. Simply amazing.

But coming back to the student schedule, Wednesday mornings are no different than any other day of the week. I wake up at 7, I snooze a bit until it’s too late and I’m already late and then I jump in the car to beat the traffic and reach the office a bit after 8. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t like that before. By all means, I am not a morning person. Usually my UI thread is unresponsive before 9 am so I developed a survival skill to be able to drive, work and even talk to people without moving more then 5 muscles on my face. Then, at about 9, the coffee kicks in (thank god they discovered coffee) and I really wake up and come to life.

That would be me in the mornings. Image courtesy of explodingdog.com

But I had to shift my schedule. This way I get some decent two hours of silence in the morning to be able to get stuff done until 10 when everybody comes in and all hell breaks loose. Thing is, this schedule allows me to leave the office earlier and beat the traffic (again) so I can maximize my study time at home, in the evenings.

Back to today, I’m now getting ready to finish the last Micro chapter and I am already done with my homework. Can’t believe I finally finished it – the last homework of the quarter! Three more exams and I’ll be done! That being said, wish me luck for those exams next week, I have a feeling I’ll need it.

Radu

- Students, staff and a few alumni blog about the experience of earning an MBA via the University of Washington Foster School of Business Technology Management MBA Program, covering events, learning-in-action, life after graduation, networking opportunities, and so much more.